Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a most tedious undertaking

we live in an old house. old houses come with "old house things" - doors that stick, stairs that creak, weird night-time noises, and hidden quirks from previous owners. and layers upon layers upon layers of paint. this house has 85 years of paint. on EVERYTHING. including the door hardware.

yuck. and the doors between our den and kitchen / dining room have old metal weather stripping, since our den used to be a porch. the metal has paint all over it, too. well, one day, phil got tired of looking at it and started to rip off the metal. and he took off the door.

gorgeous. ha! luckily, the gaps that the weather stripping had been covering weren't huge. all he had to do was use some wood filler and then paint. okay, LOTS of wood filler. and LOTS of paint. 

five zillion times better, right??!? so then we had nicely painted, significantly cleaner-looking door frame. then the bad part started.

we had been researching ways to clean old hardware (the usual suspects: design spongeapartment therapythis old house), but didn't have a crock pot. well, we actually had TWO crock pots, thanks to a great wedding shower at phil's parents' church. but one we took back when we moved to DC. and the other we actually gave to phil's friend when he was in law school up at NYU (they took it back on the bus!!). i just didn't use it. i like crispy food : ) any who... we looked on craigslist for a cheap crock pot, because no one wants to use the same crock pot you use for food (as my friend alison said, "killer queso!"); but, didn't get any immediate hits. so we did the boiling water / baking soda method. 

we pulled a couple of mop buckets from the garage and started boiling water in the electric kettle. sidebar: i had a roommate in college with a british mom who introduced me to the electric kettle concept. they are AMAZING! thanks, becky! i use it way more than i ever thought possible. okay, i'm back. so we used a bucket per hinge and filled it with boiling water and baking soda. then it soaked for at least 30 minutes, so the hardware was cool enough to handle. then phil scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. the first layer of paint would peel, then he would use a toothbrush and brillo pad to get the next layer. and then we'd boil more water and start the process over again. each hinge took, oh, about five cycles of that. the scrubbing was brutal. 

one of the coolest things about the process was taking apart the door hardware. he even took apart the lock. since this used to be a back door, it has a locking mechanism - although we don't have a key. the soak and scrub got rid of more than just the paint: the rust came off, too. 

look how pretty! i can't even describe how clean the finished look is compared to the old. the patina is still there, you still know it's old hardware. i think it's brass-plated, judging by the color (and we did a magnet test), and i love it. the glass doorknob is cleaner, too. before we do the rest of the doors - there are TEN more (!!!!!) - we are continuing the crock pot search. i'll let you know if it speeds things up. man, i hope so!

ps - throughout most of this tedious process, this lucky lady was sitting at the dining room table working on a deadline for work. phil is amazing. he would let me know good times to jump up and take a photo. seriously, all you single ladies, the best traits in a husband (to me, at least!) are an outrageous sense of humor and an incredible work ethic. nothing better than knowing my good-looking guy is working hard all day and coming home to crack me up : ) 


  1. This is so helpful! You and your husband are too cute. My aunt and I have been working on our century-old family home for a few years and have been too lazy to look into updating our hardware on a door between the kitchen and screened porch which creaks like a classic horror film's. We'll be putting your method to use before spring!

    1. thanks! it's a huge pain, but the details really make the difference : ) good luck!